Trying to make his way through ‘the swamp’
The Courier Times
Retired local restaurant owner David Gratner got a mouth full when he asked Sen. Mike Braun what it’s like being a newcomer in the place some call “the swamp.”
“When you look at Washington, D.C. and the 14,000 lobbyists out there, and I’m thinking about a new guy on the block who’s coming in, what’s that like?” Gratner asked Braun last week during a Chamber of Commerce event at the New Castle library.
“It’s part of the reason why the place doesn’t work,” Braun responded.
Indiana’s junior senator was both candid and determined in his remarks, seemingly wearing his reputation as an outsider and troublemaker for the Washington, D.C. establishment.
Braun shared one story that he thought exemplified the problems with big government. He said the profit of one major business, a firm he didn’t name, went down from $3.8 billion to $2.8 billion due to the pandemic. Leaders of that business came calling, asking “Is there anything the federal government can do for me?”
“They don’t like me,” Braun said of the Washington establishment. “Especially when I talk about Sen. Chuck Schumer getting $8.7 million into his PACs (political action committees) from hospitals.”
As reported in Saturday’s edition, Braun is trying to change health care with his “price transparency act.” But Braun said lobbyists are so strong in the nation’s capital, that “leadership in my party is pulling the transparency bill out of our proposal.”
“I come from Main Street,” Braun said, “small business. But that’s what runs our country,” he added, referring to powerful lobbyists and self-interests. “That’s why we have trillion dollar deficits annually. We just piled on $2.2 trillion with the COVID relief package and nobody seems to care.”
The problem as Braun sees it are those who win elections and go to Washington, D.C. are often not the same people who have experience running businesses.
“Most go there with great intentions,” Braun said. “Almost every lawyer who goes there intends to make a career out of it. And they’re smart. But they’ve never run anything, never had to make a budget.
“When I got there, there were 62 lawyers. We’re down to 60. Sen. Rick Scott from Florida, who served as a governor, grew up in public housing and built a business in the health care industry, agrees with everything I said about the need for pricing reforms.”
The difference, Braun said, between him and others in Washington is his focus. He said solving problems is his goal, not winning elections.
“There’s some of us now who really don’t care about how you vote in terms of whether or not it’s going to extend your political career,” Braun said.
The difficult climate keeps more people like Braun from running, he said. But Braun expressed optimism that he sees the establishment “cracking” a bit.
Braun was praised by Marsha Gratner for receiving “incredibly high scores” when it came to upholding the U.S. Constitution. He joined Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and (R-Utah) in that category.
“We’re the three who always vote on principle, not on what we might like personally,” Braun said. “That’s sad when that means 97 others don’t.”
Braun said spending deficits in this country will never be reined in until principle trumps pet projects.
“When it comes to why don’t Republicans who say they are fiscal conservatives do something to try to rein in this whole mess … it’s because we roll over for Democrats on anything they want to do domestically,” Braun said. “You’ll lose six Republicans who probably would have voted with the four of us but they’ve got defense in there, see. They’ve got something they’d like for their own backyard and their principal goes out…
“That means two-thirds of our party would be Democrat-like when it comes to spending money.”